The Vice Chairman, Iain Maitland attended Cornwall Council Private Rented Sector (PRS) inquiry as an expert witness, on Monday 11th November.
Cornwall Council’s Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, were holding an inquiry focussing specifically on the PRS in Cornwall (Selective Licensing being considered).
The session revolved around:
. Reliance on the PRS for housing needs.
. Decent and safe homes.
. New powers to tackle poor standards.
. Rogue landlord activity.
. Also covered were the abolition of Section 21 possession and its effects.
. Rent control.
. Longer AST’s.
. Training for landlords and accreditation.
The Vice Chairman expressed views on all of the above, which will hopefully be considered favourably especially with regard to selective licencing.
Thank you to all of our members who have renewed already.
For any members yet to renew, your membership expired on 31st October. Please arrange payment of £45.00 if you wish to renew for 2019-2020;
Account Name: SWLA
Sort Code: 20-68-10
Account Number: 50498610
Please quote your name and membership number as the reference.
Cheques can be sent to: SWLA, 30 Dale Road, Plymouth, PL4 6PD
**Your receipt will be emailed when payment has been received unless a paper copy is requested. You are agreeing to the terms and conditions of your original membership by paying your fee.**
Sections 122 and 123 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (electrical safety standards) came into force on 25 October 2019. This means we are one step closer to the introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks in the private rented sector.
An enabling power was contained in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 under Section 122 to allow the Secretary of State through regulations to impose duties on private landlords to ensure that electrical safety standards are met in a property under their ownership, while a tenancy is in place. The Section also allows the Secretary of State to specify obligations that may be required of the landlord with regards to the frequency of checks and the expertise expected of any persons who undertake such checks.
Section 123 provides for the enforcement of any responsibilities introduced under Section 122 including the use of financial penalties and rights of appeal.
Following Royal Assent of the Housing and Planning Act on 12 May 2016, a working group that included, electrical and tenant bodies was established to provide recommendations on what the requirements for electrical safety in the private rented sector should look like.
Now that the Commencement Order is in place, the Secretary of State has the power to lay actual regulations, which we expect to be laid before Parliament shortly.
Summary of Electrical Safety Working Group recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Five yearly mandatory electrical installation checks should be set out in secondary legislation.
Recommendation 2: Visual checks of the safety of the electrical installation by landlords at a change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
Recommendation 3: A report should be issued to the landlord which confirms that an EICR has been completed along with confirmation that any remedial work necessary has been undertaken satisfactorily. A copy should be issued to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy and should be made available to local authorities on request.
Recommendation 4: Landlord supplied electrical appliance testing and visual checks of electrical appliances by landlords at a change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
Recommendation 5: The installation of Residual Current Devices (RCDs) by landlords should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
Recommendation 6: A Private Rented Sector electrical testing competent person’s scheme should be set up which would be separate from existing Building Regulations competent person’s scheme.
Recommendation 7: DCLG should commission the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) management committee to consider the most effective method of recognising ‘competent PRS testers’ to carry out electrical inspections and tests.
Recommendation 8: Legislative requirements should be phased in, beginning with new tenancies, followed by all existing tenancies.
Article Abridged from ARLA
Landlord Accreditation Training Course
Monday 27th January 2020 – 9:30 – 4:30pm
Venue – Charter Room, Plymouth Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 1HA
Price – £65 for members of SWLA, £75 for non – members for one day course.
Course covers ASTs, Deposits, Section 21s, Section 8s, HMOs, Gas and Electrical Safety, Inventories and much more.
The course will provide you with all the skills to start, manage and finish a tenancy.
Places still available. Contact the office on 01752 510913 or via the website to book your place, places secured on receipt of payment.
Over 780 landlords have already completed this course since September 2011.
Course can lead to Accreditation, if required.
We are proud to announce Landlord Accreditation South West (LASW) are founder members of the West of England Rental Standard.
Landlord Training Course – Intermediate Law
Friday 17th January 2020 – 9:30am – 4:30pm
Of particular interest to letting agents and portfolio holders
Venue – Astor Room, Plymouth Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 1HA
If you are accredited this will count towards your CPD hours, but the course is open to all.
Cost for SWLA members – £65. Cost for non-SWLA members – £75.
A one-day course providing a more in-depth coverage of important areas of legislation and practice. Amongst the topics included will be:
Plus latest news and updates.
Places secured upon receipt of payment, book your place through the office 01752 510913.
Course will be instructed by Stephen Fowler from Training for Professionals.
On Wednesday 16th October 2019, we held our general meeting at the Future Inn, Plymouth. We had two fantastic speakers; Krissy Salmon from One Savings Bank, discussing the changing landscape of the investor property market. Also, Martyn Taylor, Managing Director of Ashley Taylor Solicitors discussing the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and how it affects landlords, also possession problems and how to avoid them.
60 members were in attendance and had good opportunity to ask questions and have queries answered by the speakers.
Krissy Salmon is happy to help SWLA members with any financial/lending queries following the meeting and can be contacted on; email@example.com
Martyn Taylor, MD of Ashley Taylors mentioned the services that his company can offer landlords, they are very experienced in possession cases and can offer an advocacy service at possession hearings. Also further legal advice if needed. To book a court advocate for a possession hearing, call 01825 766767. Discount is given to SWLA members.
The next date for your diary is our SWLA open office on Wednesday 11th December 2019 – all members welcome for a Christmas catch up and a mince pie!
Have your say! The Government consultation closes on Saturday 12th October 2019
Iain Maitland (Vice Chair SWLA) and Linda Johns (SWLA Policy Officer) met with Matt Garrett (Service Director, Community Connections Plymouth City Council) and Councillor Chris Penberthy (Cabinet for Housing and Co-operative Development) on Monday 1st October 2019.
Items on the agenda included the oversupply of HMOs in Plymouth and the abolition of Section 21.
If any of our members would like further information regarding change of use of HMOs, please contact the SWLA Office.
IMPORTANT REMINDER; the government’s Abolition of Section 21 consultation closes on Saturday 12th October 2019. Carry out the online consultation survey if you want your view to be heard.
The increase in purpose built student accommodation and the drop in student numbers has resulted in an oversupply of HMOs in the city. Plymouth City Council have been in consultation with SWLA regarding possible alternative use of some properties. Plymouth City Council are interested in the number of landlords who maybe considering a change of use of HMOs into single family dwellings or self contained flats.
Please contact SWLA office to express an interest.
On Wednesday 11th September, Office Manager Gillian Kerr attended the Landlord Panel Meeting in Bath.
Items discussed included a licencing update, legislation updates (including removal of Section 21), prosecutions/enforcements and current market conditions.
SWLA are proud to be supporting Gas Safety Week 2019, taking place 16th – 22nd September.
Gas Safety Week is an annual safety week to raise awareness of gas safety and the importance of taking care of your gas appliances. It is coordinated by Gas Safe Register, the official list of gas engineers who are legally allowed to work on gas.
Badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is a highly poisonous gas that can kill quickly with no warning, as you cannot see it, taste it or smell it.
Landlords are legally responsible for the safety of their tenants. Landlords must make sure maintenance and annual safety checks on gas appliances are carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
If you’re a landlord, you are legally obliged to make sure:
Before any gas work is carried out always check the engineer is qualified to carry out the work that needs doing e.g. natural gas, domestic boiler. You can find this information on the Gas Safe Register website or by checking the back of the engineer’s Gas Safe ID card. Encourage your tenants to also check the card when they arrive at the property.
For more information and to find or check an engineer visit GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
Vice Chairman Iain Maitland attended the Fair Possession Coalition meeting at Smith Square London on Friday 30th August 2019.
Section 21 abolition was the main topic of discussion with an update on progress and an agreement on the way ahead. Also on the agenda was licensing, landlord registration and HMO standards.
Following on from the meeting that we held yesterday with Andy Richers and Nigel Mellor, Policy Advisors from “Office from Tax Simplification”, they have invited our members to complete a Government Survey, regarding ways that paying tax can be simplified. Please find link below:
We had a meeting in our Office today, with Andy Richens, and Nigel Mellor both Policy Advisors from the “Office of Tax Simplification”.
In attendance were Iain Maitland (Vice Chairman), Steve Lees (Chairman) and Katarina Swain (Treasurer). They came to discuss and obtain our viewpoint on simplifying Tax payments for the self-employed and landlords. We will update you as we receive more information on this subject in due course.
The Chairman (Steve Lees) Vice Chairman (Iain Maitland) and Policy Officer (Linda Johns) met with Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing & Co-operative Development and Matt Garrett Head of Community Connections Plymouth City Council.
On the agenda and discussed were – abolition of Section 21 notice, HMO licensing and purpose built student accommodation, planning and empty homes policy.
Their next planned meeting is for 30th September 2019.
On 8th August 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government made slight changes to the Section 21, Form 6A and the Notes which accompany the form. The changes are very minor but we remind SWLA members to use the most up to date form when serving notice or this could cause issues in gaining possession. As Form 6A is a statutory notice, the wording is prescribed and cannot be changed without a statutory instrument, it’s only the layout of this form that has been updated. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms#form-6a
The ‘How to Rent‘ guide has also been updated with minor changes;
The publishing went ahead without any obvious updates on the publication page. ‘How to Rent’ guides should always be printed from the gov.uk website to ensure that the most up to date copy is given to your tenant at the start of their tenancy. Note, the latest publication still has May 2019’s date within the booklet. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent
Read the full report here;
It has found that of the landlords that had used Section 21:
• 84% had used it because their tenant hadn’t been paying rent
• 56% had used it because of damage to property
• 51% had used it because of anti-social behaviour
• 26% said that they had served a Section 21 notice at the tenants’ request – to enable them to seek social housing to avoid them being classed as intentionally homeless
We encourage members to approach their MPs to explain the impact the loss of Section 21 will have on them and their businesses. A letter template can be downloaded on the SWLA Members Area under ‘stationery’. Alternatively, contact the office if you would prefer a copy by email.
The government, with cross party support, intends to abolish the Section 21. There will be a consultation process, but the intention is clear: Section 21s will go!
Tenant lobby groups have long campaigned for longer tenancies and more security of tenure. Cross party MPs have been convinced that Section 21s are greatly mis-used. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The majority of landlords only seek repossession for legitimate reasons. In a government survey, it was found that the most common cause of repossession is rent arrears (58%) with misuse of property/anti-social behaviour second (45%).
The reality is that Section 21 notices are used by landlords because all other processes are not working. South West Landlords Association has joined with 17 other landlord/agent representative bodies to form the ‘Fair Possession Coalition’. Members of the coalition and their Blueprint for Reforms to Regulations Governing Repossession can be viewed on the SWLA website news feed.
This document has been forwarded to both government and opposition Housing Ministers and the M.O.J.
It is imperative that the Section 21 is not abolished without a new system in place that provides landlords with the same level of confidence about repossessing properties in legitimate circumstances.
*Statistics from the English Housing Survey 2017/2018
The current Section 8 process, under which a landlord can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty of a Section 21.
The current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and landlords and takes on average over 5 months from service of notice to possession.
The Coalition wants a comprehensive overhaul of the regulations and processes for possession. There should be clear grounds for repossessions that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants. Also a fully funded housing court, use of mediation and local venues. The process should be less intimidating for tenants and landlords and should enable both to obtain swift and accessible justice.
We request all of our members to read the Coalition’s proposals; https://www.landlordssouthwest.co.uk/2019/07/18/swla-joins-fair-possessions-coalition/
Then, contact your MP to ensure that they are aware of landlord concerns regarding the removal of the Section 21 without a suitable replacement procedure.
There is a letter template on the SWLA website in the ‘members area’ which you can download, amend and send. Alternative, please contact the SWLA office and we will email you a copy.
LANDLORD CONFIDENCE KEY TO POSSESSION REFORMS
SECTION 21 repossessions should be retained in the private rented sector unless and until a new system is in place that provides landlords with the same level of confidence about repossessing properties in legitimate circumstances.
Groups representing landlords and letting agents forming a ‘Fair Possessions Coalition’ have united in warning that plans to abolish Section 21 repossessions without a new system in place would undermine investment in the sector at a time when private landlords are relied upon on to provide homes for one in five households in England.
In a statement the Coalition notes that whilst landlords much prefer to have good tenants staying long term in their properties they need certainty that in legitimate circumstances, such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, they can swiftly and easily repossess their properties in much the same way as social landlords and mortgage lenders.
It is argued that the current ‘Section 8’ process, under which landlords can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty offered by Section 21.The current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening.
Instead of tinkering with the system, the Coalition calls for a comprehensive overhaul of the regulations and processes enabling landlords to repossess their properties. It should lay out clear grounds for repossession that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants.
Linked to the reform should be the establishment of a new, dedicated, fully funded housing court. This should make better use of mediation taking into account models in use abroad and meet in local venues such as schools and community centres, making the process less intimidating and easier for landlords and tenants to obtain the swift and accessible justice they need if the relationship is to work effectively.
The Coalition argues that such reforms must form part of a wider package of measures including welfare reforms to better support vulnerable tenants to sustain tenancies and smart taxation to encourage the development of the new homes for private rent the country needs.
The Fair Possessions Coalition is made up of: ARLA Propertymark; Cornwall Residential Landlords Association; Country Land and Business Association; East Midlands Property Owners; Eastern Landlords Association; Guild of Residential Landlords; Humber Landlords Association; iHowz; Landlord Action; Leeds Property Association; National Landlords Alliance; National Landlords Association; North West Landlords Association; Portsmouth and District Private Landlords’ Association; Residential Landlords Association; Safe Agent; South West Landlords Association; and Theresa Wallace (Chair, The Lettings Industry Council)
A thriving private
rental market that provides choice for tenants hinges on landlords having
confidence that they can regain possession of their property in a timely and
efficient way. At present, only Section 21 repossessions provide that
certainty. It should be kept unless and until a new system is in place that
provides landlords with the same level of certainty. The other routes currently
available for repossessing properties do not meet this test.
1.0 KEY PRINCIPLES FOR RESPOSSESSIONS
1.1 The process for repossessing properties should meet the needs of tenants and landlords in a modern private-rented sector and must be established upon the following key principles.
2.0 THE CASE FOR FAIR POSSESSIONS
2.1 Private landlords prefer to have reliable tenants in their property long term. Changes in tenants creates greater work and costs which no landlord actively seeks, whilst a desire for continuity makes in-tenancy rent increases less likely.
2.2 That is why the average length that a private sector tenant has been in their current property is increasing and is now 4.1 years (English Housing Survey (EHS), 2017-18). It is why in the last 3 years around 90 per cent of tenancies which came to an end were ended by the tenant (EHS, 2016-17). Also, 70 per cent of landlords have said they kept the rent the same following their most recent tenancy renewal (English Private Landlords Survey, 2018).
2.3 With the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warning of average annual rent rises of 3 per cent over the next five years as a result of the demand for private rented homes exceeding supply, it is vital that the vast majority of landlords who do the right thing are supported to provide the homes to rent the country needs. Quite simply, security of tenure will mean nothing without there being sufficient homes to rent in the first place.
2.4 As a consequence it is essential private landlords have confidence that in legitimate circumstance they can swiftly and easily regain possession of their property, in the same way mortgage lenders and social landlords can if they need to.
2.5 Much of the focus of debate has been on the use of Section 21 repossessions. Some have argued that they amount to ‘no fault evictions’ but that is not the case. All the evidence from our respective organisations shows that the overwhelming majority of landlords use Section 21 for legitimate purposes such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, where Section 8 is often ineffective.
2.6 For the vast majority of landlords, using Section 21 is the only certainty they have that in legitimate circumstances they can regain possession in a timely way. Section 8 is simply not working as it should for two key reasons:
2.7 There are clearly a small minority of landlords who abuse their position and seek to evict tenants simply for raising concerns about standards in a property. This is unacceptable, but as the Deregulation Act makes clear, such ‘retaliatory evictions’ are already illegal and councils have powers to prevent them. Sadly, as with too much legislation in the sector, these powers are not being properly used or enforced.
3.0 GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS
3.1 The Government has made clear its plans to scrap Section 21 repossessions in favour of reforms to Section 8 and improvements to the Court Processes.
3.2 In the interest of maintaining confidence in the market and the supply of sufficient private rented housing it is vital that rather than tinkering with the current regulations wholesale reforms are made to legislation and processes governing the repossession of properties by landlords. This is more likely to achieve a result that is fair to both landlords and tenants.
3.3 This means not rushing change and also ensuring that all the elements for the reformed regulations and processes are in place well before Section 21 is removed. This would give essential confidence that any new system put in place works and that space is available to properly address any teething problems before Section 21 is abolished.
3.4 The Government should also consider the law of unintended consequences. This includes:
4.0 FAIR GROUNDS FOR REPOSSESSION
4.1 Landlords have legitimate reasons to repossess. These need to be laid out so they are clear and comprehensive. This will ensure that both landlords and tenants understand their rights and responsibilities to each other. It will also make it clear where a landlord is abusing their position making it more difficult for them to do so. Equally, a tenant will be clear about when a landlord has the right to ask them to leave and when and how this may be open to challenge.
4.2 We will be preparing a detailed note on what the grounds for repossessing properties should be and the processes and time scales that should apply alongside this statement. In the meantime, the basic grounds should include:
5.0 A FAIR PROCESS FOR REPOSSESSION
5.1 There should be an initial ‘starter’ tenancy, as is the case in the social rented sector, before it switches to the indefinite model being proposed by the Government. It is not reasonable to expect the private sector to offer better terms than a social sector which is the beneficiary of generous funding and tax breaks.
5.2 There needs to be clear and adequate periods of notice given by a landlord when seeking repossession.
5.3 The grounds for repossession need to be made clear to the tenant.
5.4 There need to be safeguards for tenants to ensure that they have protection against abuse of these rights by the minority of bad landlords.
5.5 The level of evidence that a landlord is required to produce when making an application under any ground should not be set at such a high level as to make it unreasonably difficult for them to comply but also should be sufficient to fully justify an application.
5.6 Applications to repossess properties should be easy to use to ensure landlords are not required to invest considerable sums of money for legal representation.
5.7 There should be a clear time frame for each ground of repossession to be applied for and implemented.
5.8 There should be clear and easy to understand rights for a tenant to challenge an application. Where there is a challenge there should be a clear, and easy to apply for, process for adjudication.
5.9 This needs to be efficient, expeditious and inexpensive.
5.10 Councils and others should be instructed not to encourage (or even insist that) tenants disobey court orders to leave by a specified date on the basis that the tenant will not be re-housed unless they have held on until the bailiffs arrive.
5.11 There should be a minimum fixed-term before which a tenant may not unilaterally serve notice that they intend to leave the property. This would protect landlords from uncommitted tenants who leave very shortly after a tenancy has commenced.
5.12 The Government should establish a dedicated and properly funded housing court to address the failures in the current system, namely that it takes too long to repossess property through the courts and the system is far too confusing for landlords and tenants to uphold their rights given that multiple bodies currently adjudicate on different matters in the sector.
5.13 A housing court should build on the work of the existing Property Tribunal. This would have the advantage of:
5.14 Work should be carried out to look also at different models around the world to establish what might work in the UK.
6.0 PREVENTING RENT CONTROLS
6.1 We are concerned that the logic of the Government’s plans for indefinite tenancies is that there will be calls for restrictions to prevent landlords increasing rents as a means of encouraging tenants to leave a tenancy where they may have no other ground available.
6.2 The reformed structure for repossessions should ensure that this does not open the way to rent controls which, all the evidence proves, would be highly damaging and lead to a very significant reduction in supply.
6.3 Rather, the Government should reiterate that the law as it currently stands already includes provisions to prevent market abuses.
REFORMS ARE NEEDED
7.1 We further call for the proposals to form part of a much broader package to support tenants and good landlords. This should include:
Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP has today announced a call for evidence on deposit protection in England.
This call for evidence seeks to understand the barriers tenants face providing a second deposit when moving from one tenancy to the next. It looks at what can be done to speed up the return of deposits to tenants at the end of the tenancy.
Gillian Kerr, SWLA Office Manager attended the meeting in Bristol on Wednesday 12th June 2019. Items discussed included;
The West of England Landlord Expo (Bristol) date for 2020 is set for 26th March 2020. It’s the Expo’s 20th Anniversary so promises to be a busy and informative day. All landlords are welcome and it’s free to attend, pop it in your diary! SWLA will have a stand at the event.
½ Day Landlord Training Courses
Monday 7th October 2019
Venue – Charter Room, Plymouth Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 1HA
If you are accredited this will count towards your CPD hours, but the course is open to all.
Cost for SWLA members – £35 per half day or £65 for both courses.
Cost for non-SWLA members – £40 per half day or £75 for both courses.
First Session – 9:30 – 12:30 – Understanding the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and Fitness for Human Habitation
Some things for you to think about, the potential high penalties for landlords who do not keep their property in repair and safe. This can lead to delays in evictions as well as damage claims from the tenants. On this course we will be looking at what is and is not acceptable condition.
Second Session – 13:30 – 16:30 – Inventory
Inventories – move in and maintaining a good property condition. What are the best ways to record condition, how at the end of the tenancy to access what is tenants damage and how much the landlord can lawfully claim in compensation.
Places secured upon receipt of payment, book your place through the office 01752 510913.
Making Tax Digital (MTD) – Mandatory digital record keeping for VAT for businesses over the VAT threshold (with turnover over £85,000) came into force from 1 April 2019. This was an important first step in the modernisation of the tax system to which the government remains committed.
The government have confirmed a light touch approach to penalties in the first year of implementation. Where businesses are doing their best to comply, no filing or record keeping penalties will be issued. The focus will be on supporting businesses to transition and the government will therefore not be mandating MTD for any new taxes or businesses in 2020.
Information above taken from the ‘Spring Statement 2019: Written Ministerial Statement’. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/785618/WMS_final_Commons.pdf
For further information, see the gov.uk website; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-tax-digital/overview-of-making-tax-digital
Here’s the latest landlord engagement newsletter; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletters/may-2019-universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletter
The gov.uk guide has also been updated and answers many landlord queries; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-rented-housing–2/universal-credit-and-rented-housing-guide-for-landlords
Condensation can lead to damp and mould issues, here is a video with tips on how to reduce it! https://www.plymouthenergycommunity.com/advice/energy-tips